Johanna Konta, Kyle Edmund make first-round exits at Australian Open

By on January 21, 2020

To lose one former semi-finalist at the Australian Open is unfortunate; to lose two in the space of a few hours is depressing – and that was the fate of Johanna Konta and Kyle Edmund, as British hopes crashed on day two of the first slam of the year.

Konta, who reached the semis in 2016, was hurried out of the the tournament in just over an hour under undiluted blue skies on Tuesday – the first Melbourne has seen in many weeks – when the world No 78, Ons Jabeur, dominated the 12th seed – the highest to lose to that point – almost from start to finish to win 6-4 6-2.

Edmund’s exit took two hours and 46 minutes, and was no less painful to watch, as Dusan Lajovic, the rising Serbian who played so well in his country’s ATP Cup win in Sydney last week, won their unfinished first-round match, 7-6 (7) 6-3 7-6 (4).

Konta never hit a convincing rhythm against Jabeur, who beat her at Eastbourne last summer. The Tunisian was in charge for most of the 63 minutes it lasted on 1573 Arena, hitting hard and deep to deny her any chance of mounting a coherent reply.

Konta never recovered from the early pressure applied by an opponent who has a smattering of good names on her CV over the past 12 months, including Yulia Putintseva, Donna Vekic (twice) and Caroline Garcia – whom she plays in the second round after the French player’s three-set win over Madison Brengle – but losses to lesser players as well. It was Konta’s misfortune to strike Jabeur on one of her best days.

“A hundred per cent I expected her to play well against me,” Konta said. “I expected her to be inspired to play well, and she’s the kind of player [who] also gets on a bit of a roll. That unleashes more of her creativity and her unpredictability. That’s why she’s very difficult to play.”

Konta’s priorities switch to the American hardcourts, where she will play Indian Wells and Miami, leapfrogging the Fed Cup a week after this tournament, and possibly tuning up in Dubai, Doha, Monterrey or St Petersburg.

She has always been a cup half-full person, though. “I knew that by taking a decision to play here, I was opening myself up to it potentially not going well. It’s always difficult to come back after not playing a certain amount of time. But my knee felt quite good today; it was actually even better than Brisbane [where she lost in the first round]. That’s a very positive thing for me, especially from where I was in September,” Konta said of her efforts to get over a tendonitis-related problem in her right knee.

The strain shows on Kyle Edmund during his loss to Dusan Lajovic in the first round. Photograph: James Gourley/BPI/REX/Shutterstock

Out on Court 15, Edmund, who did well to get to the semi-finals with a sore knee two years ago, blew a 5-2 overnight lead when he and Lajovic resumed early afternoon. From the moment Lajovic forced a long forehand from him in the first-set tie-break, the British No 2 struggled.

It continued in the second, as Edmund saved four break points in the fourth game before blocking a backhand long to fall into another hole of his own making.

He broke back quickly to repair some of the damage, gave it up again and could do little about Lajovic serving out for a two-set lead. The third was tighter, but ultimately frustrating for Edmund, who could not convert a set point and stuck on the baseline too often as Lajovic opened his shoulders. He sealed the deal with a magnificent crosscourt forehand.

“Normally, in the past, he’s given away a little bit more cheap points,” Edmund said. “But today he was being more proactive than me in the points and the set-up. I found I was reacting a little bit too much to his play. I did my best but I was second best today in the areas he beat me. Out of of the tournament, it’s [difficult] right now to look at positives.”

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